I started with the embedded course syllabus (INTAF 597C Penn State SIA) and then will post reflections for each day of the journey through the course materials and within Cuba. The hope is that this provides some food for thought respecting the necessary evolution of political and economic systems, and the constraints within which systems change or expend great energy to stay the same.
Links for full contents HERE.
This post considers our activities on Day 1--Viñales.
Viñales itself has prospered for a number of reasons. Over the last 20 years it has become an increasingly noticed site for tourism. Tourism has boomed in the last 5 years or so as travel to Cuba has become more fashionable and feasible. It is breathtakingly beautiful but also safe. Safe in the sense that it provides a remote location of natural beauty away from Havana that provides a nicely self contained space for tourist interaction with local people and also a means of spreading tourist sector wealth well beyond the Capital and other popular urban areas. To that extent it represents sound planning by the state. That is especially underlined where the state means to manage its tourist sector carefully in line with its paramount obligation to preserve its system from disruption--either intentional or as a consequence of the scope of interaction with foreigners. It is likely that this model will be replicated all across Cuba. A nice way to create safe spaces for tourism that makes it possible for the state to better manage its population in the way that it determines to be in its best interests.
And, indeed, once one sees the pattern, it pops up all over the Island. The way the state manages the geographies of tourist interactions suggests techniques for containing tourism within certain zones, spread increasingly all over the Island, and within Havana. This is not a criticism so much as an observation of choices. In a state that remains wary of foreigners, especially those whose visit from states that have only recently been viewed as adversaries, it may well make sense to figure out ways to both invite tourism, bit also to manage its insertion within the Island. The creation of tourist “safe spaces” where interactions are anticipated and can be planned around within rural areas and outside the Havana metropolis is one response. But more interesting, as we will see in later posts, is the way this containment and management also works within Havana itself. To be clear, this is not the old Soviet style containment and surveillance approach—people are still free to roam to a large extent. But the managerialism is intended to direct most people to certain areas where certain activities are focused that provide the most efficient means of combining tourist desires and control of the bulk of the interactions with foreigners within well delineated spaces.